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A tight 'n' cosy hug

THE IN FABRICStretched clothes look and feel sexy PHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

THE IN FABRICStretched clothes look and feel sexy PHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.  

Lycra has gone beyond just the body-hugging sports and exercise gear and has seeped into a range of fabrics

It could be just about anywhere — in your lingerie, choli, sari, socks, swimsuit, bedspread, T-shirt, baniyan, denim trousers and jackets, evening gown... or even nail enamel. "You either have it or you don't." And it's called lycra.

Believe me, such lines do wonders for clothing brands, going by the looks and attention it drew at a recent fashion show that unveiled the latest trends in lycra fashions and innovations.

Jane Fonda, wrapping her sculpted body in lycra, not just triggered the aerobics revolution but also the imagination and fantasy of thousands.

Today lycra's gone beyond just body-hugging sportswear and exercise wear and has ensconced itself into denim, leather, cotton, voile and other fabrics. "Comfort" is the keyword that has triggered the endemic use of this yarn in all sorts of clothing, going by the buzzword at the event. Though the clothes paraded didn't quite set the ramp on fire, the facts and figures were definitely intriguing. Apparently, men are a bit apprehensive about using this fabric, but such misgivings seem to be fading.

Traditional lycra-wear is for the bravehearts and able-bodied. I mean, you wouldn't want to wear material that hugs and curves around every part of your body unless you had amazing biceps, six-pack abdomen, washboard stomach and a perfectly taut derriere. If you love and live your cottons, lycra is not the thing for you.

But that scene seems to be a-changin'. You can now have your cargos and khakis and your white cotton shirt and have them fit better — and absorb sweat better — with a lashing of lycra. And stretched denim definitely looks and feels sexy. Eat this: nearly one crore pairs of jeans sold in India (40 crore in the U.S.) every year have lycra in them, says Satish Khurana, Director Sales and Marketing of Invista. Invista is the company that holds the trademark for lycra. Ace designers Manoviraj Khosla, Namrata G, Deepika Govind and Jattinn Kochhar showed off their lycra-blended collections.

VJ Anusha, who hosts MTV Style Check, was there to promote lycra, her show and the Lycra Awards. Manoviraj even declared that lycra was one of the best things to happen to garments. "Lycra adds stretch to clothes and makes it more comfortable. It doesn't matter whether you use it in Indian or Western outfits. It offers much movement." He believes that though lycra started off being associated with body suits, it's now finding its way into men's formal suits. "Nearly 80 per cent of the clothes I work on have lycra. It works."

Designer Karunesh Vohra of the Munch Design Workshop did a forecast for the fabric at the event and believes that lycra is still under-utilised. Normally T-shirts have about three per cent lycra. "The stretch in lycra is obvious. It helps silhouetting and sizing and make a dress fit across three sizes. Lycra could be mixed with khadi or even leather," he offers. Lycra products such as Teflon in clothes protects against stains, says Vohra. (And here we all thought it was only dangerously present on our non-stick dosa tawa.) Cool-max, another lycra product, takes the sweat out of the body and evaporates it from the garment's surface.

Four years ago Pepe Jeans had a zero on their lycra chart. But today, 40 per cent of their collection has lycra, says Pepe's MD Chetan Shah. "The Indian consumer demands comfort. Nearly 80 per cent of our women's jeans have lycra. But in Europe, we don't use more than 10 per cent lycra," says Shah.

"When silhouettes have to be filled to give an elegant shape, there's nothing like lycra," says Namrata G. A dash of lycra in evening wear, whether it's a dress or skirt gives it flow, fit and feel, she says. "It makes you feel like a woman. It drapes." She's already visualising a range of chudidars and kurtas that could take well to lycra. Jattinn Kochhar has used lycra extensively in his fusion evening wear, saris and sari blouses, lehenga-cholis, kurtas and sherwanis and more recently in school shoes for kids.

Lycra in home textiles, especially wrinkle-free bedspreads is the next big thing, according to Invista's Khurana.

But who would want to wear a shiny blue T-shirt with red and yellow shiny kitsch work near the collar? Or a fisherman's netty black shiny kurta? Or a butt-hugging large-floral printed blue and black pair of pants? Any takers?

Seems like lycra wear has some evolutionary stages to go through. Yet. So let's really hope that with lycra the imagination and creativity will stretch too.

Lycra fact check

Lycra was invented nearly 40 years ago when it was generically termed spandex.

It is a popular yarn because of its ability to stretch up to seven times its original length (and this is important) it springs back into its original shape.

It's never used alone but blended with all fibres — natural and man-made.

Lycra is popular with fetishists as it doubles as a surrogate skin, This is known as lycra fetishism.

BHUMIKA K.

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